An Honorable Ecological Niche for Mankind

Reflecting on the recent meteor over the Midwest, I am reminded that we are about due for one of those dinosaur-killing asteroids that crosses the Earth's orbit every 65 million years or so.

So riddle me this. If one of those is on the way again, who, if not mankind, is going to stop it? As much as I love the chimps and dolphins, it's not going to be them.

If you like to think of Earth's biosphere as a giant organism (I do), then among mankind's many activities has been creating, and becoming, the nervous system, sensory equipment and brain for that organism, on a planetary level. The Internet, as well as the telephone and various broadcast technologies, allow people all over the planet to sense and act in accord, like neurons in worldwide brain, and (barring occasional "damage" in the form of attempts at government censorship) do it with ever greater speed and efficiency.

At the same time, mankind is also becoming not only the eyes, ears and brain of this planet, but its arms and legs as well. As our species has in recent decades taken its first tentative baby steps outside the biosphere, it has also taken its first close looks at, and in some cases touched for the first time, its nearby surroundings in the universe.

If anyone has a chance of stopping that next planet-killing asteroid, it's humans.

If we manage to pull that off, I'd say we've paid up most of our karmic debt to this planet going back the past 3 million years or so.

I think that being the eyes, ears, brain, arms, legs and protector of this planet is a darned fine, honorable and unique ecological niche, don't you?

I just hope that when the asteroid comes, we haven't sunk into a dark age of ignorance, backwardness, weakness and complacency, to where we couldn't get a rocket out to that asteroid even if we wanted to.

I think we and this planet have a great future together, and while it shouldn't involve our ruining the planet, it doesn't involve renouncing technology either.

Let's not blow it.

(c) 2010 Malcolm Carlock